Published Feb 01, 2000With the proliferation of angry music these days one would gather that either 1) there is a lot to be pissed off about or, 2) being angry is as transparent as the absurd level of hollowness that pop music has plummeted to in the last few years.
Yes there is plenty to be entirely enraged at on this planet, but none of the corporate/anger bands address them. So is nu metal, rap metal or just simply crap metal just another dumbed-down phenomenon to wince at, or is it a real sign of the apocalypse? It's obvious that angst and violence have been corporatised and commodified by the music industry into a branding mechanism to sell these talentless champions of mediocrity to the unwitting masses.
So who cares? Well, when the corporate gods have packaged anger it has effectively become null and void because after it has been turned into P.T. Barnum, nobody believes it anymore. I don't think it was a natural part of the growth process for the Rainbow Butt Monkeys to become the ominous Finger Eleven. I don't seem to remember them doing that irritating convulsing ape move that Fieldy from Korn invented a few years ago. Did getting a record deal make them that livid? They're gonna drag you down alright, cause they were told to. Curiously, both they and N'Sync use puppets as visual references that I think are not-so-subtle clues they be bought by the man.
Real anger, violence and rage isn't fake. Anger doesn't have a hair stylist and multiple piercings because Mr. A & R told me so. Real rage is Glen Benton from Deicide sounding like a Linda Blair atop a jack hammer while playing to half empty clubs for a decade, ranting about his hatred of God. Even if he is nuts, at least he truly believes it and he ain't suckin' dick, and that upside down cross burned into his forehead wasn't my first clue.
Real rage and violence was Richard Hell and the punk epic, "Blank Generation." It was a historical knowledge of cultural literary rebellion that enabled him, in his 1977 world where he paused shortly, to explain that the New York punk movement could be compared to the French poets of the late nineteenth century. Meanwhile Fred Durst admits that he hasn't even read a book, so his bite-sized idiotic verse is perfect for packaging: "I'm not gonna give a fuck about you, 'till you give a fuck about me," from the Limp Bizcuit classic " My Generation." How succinct. How inspirational.
Pop music has always had components that are vapid and artificial: they are musically co-dependant, and I also don't think there was ever a period in rock music that was utopian in its purity or integrity. But the question is of ratios between truth and bullshit, and when anger and violence is a top-down phenomenon, you know the bottom has fallen out of the corporate rock universe.
Who could have ever imagined that rage would be synonymous with cheese? Are Stained, Coal Chamber, Godsmack et al less laughable than, say, Poison? All are/were victims of fashion that are ultimately judged by time, and we already know what happened to big hair bands; the same thing that happened to shoulder pads and Pauly Shore. When a fashion becomes huge it is on its last legs: Now we have a million and one livid bands all vying for cranky dominion of the charts with paint-by-numbers music and hostile, yet curiously, vague lyrics. Reminds me of all the slacker bands a few years ago that tried to prove to everyone they barely to get out of bed, least of all record a good song.
Our collective attention span is pretty short and that says to me that this current fashion of fake nihilism is near its end. At the end of this era of utter superficiality, the only thing that can really take its place is some real emotion, at whatever end of the spectrum of sensitivity.